When we looked through the windows of what used to be the Rosso Antico building site, we knew something legit was going down. At the back of the site, peering over a freshly cut bar, was the distinct tiling of a Neapolitan wood-fired oven. Just inside the door was a stack of Caputo 00 flour, the most primo pizza flour in the industry. Finally, it opened.
The dough is true to Neapolitan tradition – thin, light and bulgy at the edge with gaseous veins. It’s got a rich bready flavour comparable to any fine sourdough, and it’s topped with a mixture of astutely sourced Australian and Italian produce.
The vision comes from Riccardo Tedesco, a veteran of Sydney’s Italian food scene who became obsessed with pizza after a visit to a family’s pizzeria in Italy. “The whole day for me was in there. My wife and kids were going off and doing what they were doing and I just spent my whole time in there, picking brains and working with the style of the pizza,” he says. Despite having owned and managed a range of Italian restaurants in Sydney, Tedesco says he’s never felt as passionate about any food as he does about pizza now.
While Tedesco is preparing 36-hour dough fermentations and assiduously pouring over every detail of the pizza prep, the rest of the menu relies on the skills of another Tedesco, Riccardo’s mum, Gina. Despite being officially retired and nearing 70, the incredibly fresh-faced nonna wakes up at 5am every day to make Rosso Antico’s pasta, gnocchi and cakes. “My mum loves this industry. She was always saying, 'When are you opening your next one?'" As well as making a 12-hour slow-cooked veal and pork ragu with fresh fettucine, and gnocchi with napoletana sauce and fior di latte, Gina also crafts daily specials based on the regional food of her family.
It’s been a personal journey for Tedesco, who says he’s never worked with his ideas and passion so publicly before Rosso Antico. The entire fit-out, which looks like a repurposed art gallery, was designed by him, and the menu, which he created in collaboration with Gina, is based on his childhood diet. "It was the first restaurant I've had where I've taken a shell, the whole menu, the concept, everything from scratch," he says.
The other major offering to expect is a lunch trade which delves further into Tedesco's ideal of cuccina povera, Italian peasant food.